Are you working too many hours?

Written by Vince Faust

Did you know that people who work too many hours are at greater risk for depression according to recent studies? Researchers followed middle aged workers and after taking other risk factors for depression into account, found that workers on the job for 11 hours or more each day are twice as likely to suffer from depression as those who worked just seven to eight hours daily.

Occasionally working long hours can have benefits for the individual and their community. But it’s important to recognize that working excessive hours is also associated with an increased risk of major depression.

Research shows that if you shave even an hour or two off of the standard 40-hour workweek can have huge benefits at work, at home and with your health. Researchers also looked at the physical, mental, emotional, and social effects of working beyond your standard 40 hours a week. Their findings concluded that working more than 10 hours a day is associated with a 60 percent increase in risk of cardiovascular issues.

Research also pointed out the damage to our physical health that overwork can cause. A study from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that working 55 hours or more each week increases your risk of a stroke by 35% and your risk of dying from heart disease by 17%.

In 1914 the Ford Motors cut worker hours from nine to eight hours a day. After two years their margins doubled. The 8-hour workday has been the norm for more than a century. Even eight hours is too much time to spend at work. Recent research finds that most people are truly productive only for about three hours every day.

A New England cotton mill instituted the first five-day workweek in the United States in 1908, so that Jewish workers didn’t have to work on the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Henry Ford in 1926 began closing his factories Saturdays and Sundays.

Recent data shows that American workers typically work 40.5 hours a week, the most of any country in the study, making Americans the least likely to take the shorter working week from idea to reality.

We have to make some changes. You have to remember there are only 24 hours in a day. If you work 8 and sleep 8 you have 8 left. Most people take an hour each way to get to work. That leaves you with 6 hours. If you take a shower and get dressed you’ve used 1 more hour. I hope you take at least one shower a day. You have 5 hours left. You haven’t eaten or talked to your family. If you eat 3 meals you will use 2 hours if you count cooking and eating. That leaves you with 3 hours. And that’s if everything goes right and you have no traffic problems, buses and trains on time and you have good weather. I always recommend you workout everyday for at least 30 minutes. Please have that as part of your day. That 30 minutes everyday could save your life. Now you have 2 and a half hours left. Let’s give yourself a half hour for unforeseen occurrences. Now you have 2 hours. If you spend 1 hour helping your children with homework you don’t have much left. And that’s if you only have one child. Now you have one hour out of 24. Will you talk to your mother or your wife?

The 40-hour workweek came into effect during the Great Depression. Government saw that a shorter workweek was a way to fight the massive unemployment crisis by spreading the remaining labor out over more people. There are no Federal laws in the United States restricting the number of hours a person aged 16 or older is allowed to work a day. The law does mandate that employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must receive overtime pay of at least 1 1/2 times their regular pay if their employer requires them to work more than 40 hours in a work week. There may be local laws or union contracts that restrict working hours. In most regions employers can require you work at least 4 hours a day and/or at least 15 hours a week to maintain full employment. The first state law in the United States that called for an eight-hour workday was passed in Illinois in 1867.

Robert Owen, a British textile-manufacturer launched a social program to improve the quality of life for his employees, he stopped using child labor and reduce his workers schedules. In 1817, he coined a slogan “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest”, a program that was supposed to symbolize the balance of a working day.

There are no clear answers as to how many hours we should work. We do know that 8 hours is too many. Every industry has to find out what works for both the company and the workers.

Vince Faust